Daily Current Affairs - 16th Feb 2019

Amazon Pay UPI launched for Android users in India

  • Amazon has launched "Amazon Pay Unified Payments Interface (UPI)" for Android users in partnership with Axis Bank to issue UPI IDs to its customers in India.
  • With this, users would be able to use their Amazon Pay UPI ID to shop on Amazon.in, make payments for their daily purchases, including recharges and bill payments, without entering bank account or debit card credentials or going through a multi-layer process to pay from their bank account.
  • UPI is an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India processing inter-bank transactions.
  • Director, Amazon Pay: Vikas Bansal

Badminton National: PV Sindhu to clash with Saina Nehwal in Women's Singles Final in Guwahati

  • Star shuttlers PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal will face each other in the Women's Singles summit clash. Both players had also met in the last edition's Final at Nagpur, with Saina beating Sindhu in that game. In the Men's Singles title clash, two-time winner Sourabh Verma will take on Asian Junior champion Lakshya Sen.
  • In Men's Doubles Final, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty will take on Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran, while for the Women's Doubles trophy, the pair of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram will play against the team of Shikha Gautam and Ashwini Bhat K.

Germany rejects US call to leave Iran nuclear deal

  • Germany has rejected an appeal by US Vice President Mike Pence for Europeans to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and isolate Iran. Germany defended the 2015 agreement under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
  • The USA criticized the initiative of France, Germany and Britain to allow European companies to continue operating in Iran despite US sanctions.
  • Germany
  • President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier
  • Chancellor: Angela Merkel
  • Capital: Berlin
  • Currency: Euro

GMR Infrastructure likely to demerge airports business

  • GMR Infrastructure has recorded a net loss of Rs. 561 crore for the December quarter as finance costs soared, other income fell and losses in the power vertical continued to dim the profits made by airport vertical. It has made a net loss of Rs. 578 crore in the same quarter a year earlier.
  • The loss came on the back of a 5.5% fall in revenue to Rs. 1,958 crore and a 14% fall in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to Rs. 412 crore.
  • The power vertical of the group continued to reel under losses, clocking Rs. 184.48 crore, offsetting the Rs. 364.74 crore profit by the airports segment.
  • The firm’s board approved the constitution of a sub-committee to consider and evaluate options of a demerger to unlock shareholder value in the existing business of the group.

GS1 signs MoU with Government eMarketplace

  • GS1 India, a standards organisation set up by the commerce and industry ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Government eMarketplace (GeM). The MoU will enable GeM's buyers and vendors to access accurate and standardized information on attributes of thousands of products across categories, empowering them to make more informed decisions.
  • GeM will access product data from GS1 India's DataKart, the national repository of information on attributes of millions of retail products in the country.

Hero Gold Cup 2019 Final: Myanmar down Nepal to lift inaugural cup

  • Myanmar defeated Nepal by three goals to one in the eight-day long Hero Gold Cup. Myanmar were unbeaten coming into the final, having beaten all three sides during the group stages. Nepal, meanwhile, had been the true surprise package of the tournament so far, defeating higher-ranked India and Iran.

India revokes Pak.’s MFN status day after terrorist strike in J&K

  • India revoked the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan and warned of more measures in response to its support for terrorist groups targeting India. The recent suicide car bombing in Pulwama district killed 40 paramilitary personnel, making it one of the worst incidents of violence in the history of the State’s insurgency.
  • The Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Meanwhile, in a stern message to Pakistan, the US White House has asked Pakistan to immediately end its support to all terror groups and not to provide safe haven to them.

Indian-origin global negotiator appointed director of renowned academic institution in South Africa

  • An Indian-origin global negotiator by the name Faizel Ismail has been appointed as the director of a renowned academic institution in South Africa. Professor Faizel Ismail will take charge as the director of the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance in July.
  • Ismail is known for his role in negotiating major agreements for South Africa, including with the Southern African Customs Union as well as the Trade and Development Agreement with the European Union.
  • Ismail has in the past served as an ambassador to the World Trade Organisation and a senior advisor to the Minister of Trade and Industry.
  • South Africa
  • President: Cyril Ramaphosa
  • Capitals: Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein
  • Currency: South African rand

MEA Sushma Swaraj to be on four-day visit to Bulgaria, Morocco & Spain

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be on a four-day visit to Bulgaria, Morocco and Spain. Mrs Swaraj will begin her tour with a visit to Bulgaria where the two leaders will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
  • In Morocco, she will interact with her counterpart and several MoUs are also expected to be signed during the visit.
  • In Spain, Mrs Swaraj will hold a bilateral meeting with her counterpart to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual concern.
  • Bulgaria
  • President: Rumen Radev
  • Prime Minister: Boyko Borisov
  • Capital: Sofia
  • Currency: Bulgarian lev
  • Morocco
  • King: Mohammed VI of Morocco
  • Prime Minister: Saadeddine Othmani
  • Capital: Rabat
  • Currency: Moroccan dirham

Merchandise trade deficit widens to $14.73 bn in Jan.

  • India’s merchandise trade deficit widened to $14.73 billion in January, largely driven by a strong growth in the import of gold and silver. The trade deficit stood at $13.08 billion in December, and $15.67 billion last January.
  • Exports in January 2019 were $26.36 billion, as compared to $25.41 billion in January 2018, exhibiting a positive growth of 3.74%.
  • The major commodity groups exhibiting growth in exports over their levels in last January were engineering goods (1.07%), gems and jewellery (6.67%), organic and inorganic chemicals (15.56%), drugs and pharmaceuticals (15.2%), and ready-made garments of all textiles (9.33%).
  • Silver imports grew 104% in January 2019 compared to January 2018, while gold imports also grew strongly, by 38% over the same period.

NASA Will Launch a New Space Telescope in 2023 to Investigate the Universe

  • NASA has announced a new space telescope mission dedicated to understanding the origins of life and the universe. It's called the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer or SPHEREx, for short.
  • NASA is aiming for a 2023 launch and has already earmarked $242 million for the project.
  • Once SPHEREx is already in orbit, it will observe and collect data on over 300 million galaxies, some as far as 10 billion light-years away from Earth, and 100 million stars in our own Milky Way every six months.
  • It will use technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft to survey the sky in optical and near-infrared light.
  • The space telescope's main goals, though, are to search for water and organic molecules within the Milky Way. It will also look for those ingredients of life in regions where stars are born, as well as in disks around stars forming new planets.

Pedro Sanchez calls snap elections in Spain on April 28

  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called for an early general election for 28 April. The announcement came after Catalan nationalist MPs rejected Mr Sánchez's budget bill after the government refused to discuss the region's right to self-determination.
  • Opinion polls suggest that no single party would win a clear majority. But conservatives and the far-right Vox party are expected to do well.
  • Spain
  • Capital: Madrid
  • Currency: Euro

Pranab Mukherjee releases book containing selected speeches of Venkaiah Naidu

  • Former President Pranab Mukherjee has released the book containing selected speeches of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu at a function in New Delhi. The book is a compilation of 92 speeches of Mr Naidu.

RBI raps Yes Bank on ‘no divergence’ disclosure

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come down heavily on Yes Bank for making it public through a press release that the regulator’s report found no divergence in bad loans or provisioning for 2017-18. Earlier this week Yes Bank, citing RBI’s Risk Assessment Report (RAR), said the regulator did not find any divergences. Next day, the share price surged by 31%.
  • The issuance of the press release has, therefore, been viewed seriously by the RBI and could entail further regulatory action

SC directs centre to initiate process to appoint Information Commissioners

  • The Supreme Court of India has directed the centre to initiate a process to appoint information commissioners in Central Information Commission two months before vacancy arises. The key directions, passed by the bench said that the process to appoint chief information commissioner should be same as in the case of chief election commissioner.
  • The bench has also asked the centre to consider eminent citizens, besides bureaucrats for appointment as information commissioners.

SC directs states to sensitise cops about scrapping of Section 66A of IT Act

  • The Supreme Court of India has directed all state governments to sensitise their police personnel about scrapped Section 66A of Information Technology Act, so that people are not unnecessarily arrested under the provision.
  • Section 66A of IT Act provided for jail term to people who post offensive content online and it was scrapped by the apex court in March 2015.
  • The court also asked all the high courts to send the copy of the verdict to all the trial courts to avoid people being prosecuted under the scrapped provision.

School children protest over climate change in Britain

  • In Britain, thousands of school children went on a strike in protest against climate change. There were similar protests in dozens of towns and cities, including Brighton, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford.
  • Many of the children were attending the "Youth Strike 4 Climate" event, part of a Europe-wide movement that has seen walkouts in Belgium, France, Germany, and Sweden.
  • The movement was inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl who held a solitary protest outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last year.

Sonia and Lovlina enter quarterfinals

  • Former world silver-medallist Sonia Lather (57kg) was among the three Indian women boxers who advanced to the quarterfinals at the 70th Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. But the men were off to a disappointing start.
  • Sonia defeated Serbia’s Jelena Zekic 5-0. Lovlina got the better of Australian Jessica Messina.
  • Pwilao Basumatari (64kg) also made the quarters of the prestigious European event.
  • More than 300 boxers from over 40 nations are competing in the ongoing edition.

Spain to face champion Croatia in Davis Cup finals

  • Rafael Nadal’s Spain will host defending champion Croatia in the Davis Cup finals with the 17-time major winner set to be the only member of the sport’s big four taking part in the controversially rebooted tournament.
  • Nadal, a Davis Cup champion in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011, will likely face Marin Cilic, Croatia’s top player who won both his singles in the 2018 Davis Cup final victory over France.

UN appoints Chandramouli Ramanathan as ASG in Management Strategy dept

  • The UN has appointed an Indian official Chandramouli Ramanathan in one of the top most positions in its Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance.
  • Chandramouli Ramanathan has been appointed as Controller, Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Finance in the management strategy, policy and compliance department. He succeeds Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas of Uruguay.
  • Ramanathan has nearly 40 years of executive international experience in diverse organisational settings in finance and budget, management and information technology.

Union Minister Arun Jaitley resumed charge as Finance Minister

  • Arun Jaitley has resumed charge as finance minister after his return from the US and will address the board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday. The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has directed to assign the portfolios of the minister of finance and minister of corporate affairs to Arun Jaitley.
  • During his absence, railways and coal minister Piyush Goyal was given charge of the finance ministry on 23 January. Goyal also presented the sixth and final budget of the National Democratic Alliance government on 1 February.

US President Donald Trump declares national emergency to construct wall along Mexico border

  • US President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to construct a wall along the border with Mexico. This declaration will give Mr Trump access to billions of dollars for the project.
  • He would draw the money from federal military construction and counter-drug efforts, bypassing Congress, which approved far less money for his proposed wall than he had sought.
  • He termed the move a great thing saying that it was essential to prevent the country from invasion of illegal immigrants.

Vande Bharat: India’s self-propelled, fastest train takes off

  • The inaugural trip of India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat Express, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New Delhi railway station. The train is a plush 16-coach, air-conditioned, self-propelled train set and doesn’t have a locomotive.
  • The express will ply between Delhi and Varanasi, with halts at Kanpur and Allahabad. It will complete the 780-km journey in eight hours, slicing off 180 minutes from the current travel time of 11-and-a-half hours. This is India’s fastest train to date, capable of commercial speeds up to 160 km per hour.